Posts in Whole Person Health
Chronic Shock and What You Can Do About It

Last week I posted a screening checklist for chronic shock. We had some discussion about results over on Facebook. There were several instances of, "Hey, I score high on a couple of these things. Isn't that just temperament? I don't feel like I'm in shock."

Of course there are personality differences. From the time kids are little bitty some of them are more driven and some are more laid back. This was one of my excuses when I did the shock questionnaire. OF COURSE there are a million things on my To Do List. I have to do a ton of things in order to get where I want to go.

And there is truth to this. It's possible to be busy and still be connected, fully present, and mindful about what you're doing. And then there's the state I was in, which is not so healthy. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. My To Do List felt like Everest, and I was trying to climb it - alone - without any climbing gear. I felt disconnected, disenchanted, flat, and a little hopeless. Also, bone weary.

I've realized, now that I've moved out of shock, that I'd lost the ability to enjoy any one thing. If I was sitting and talking to the Viking, I was thinking about all of the things that HAD to be done. I felt disconnected from people, family and friends alike. I moved from sympathetic shock - running around like a headless chicken while trying to do ALL THE THINGS - into parasympathetic shock - exhausted, depressed, falling asleep while trying to write or drive or pretty much any time I was actually sitting still.

At bedtime, I'd crash for an hour or two, and then my body would wake back up and not know what to do with the whole concept of extended rest.

Who is most at risk for shock?

People who tend to be "care giver" types are at high risk. First responders, including therapists, counselors, and medical personnel, are continually inundated with intense emotions and life and death situations. They are often too busy caring for others to take care of themselves. Individuals who have had personal tragedies, been diagnosed with a serious illness, or had to deal with a financial crisis, may move from stress into shock.

When life comes at us too hard and fast, we move into a fight or flight mode, (sympathetic shock) and/or a freeze mode (parasympathetic shock) and some of us get stuck there. 

What can you do?

  1. Become Mindful. Notice what your body is doing. Is your heart racing, your adrenaline pumping, your brain trying to perform gymnastic feats? Or are you dragging yourself around and constantly hitting caffeine and energy drinks to try to get things done? Are you hitting the sugar or the chocolate by early afternoon? When do these things happen? Are there triggers that send you one way or the other?
  2. Meditate. Meditation calms the body and the mind. It begins to balance out the brain-body chemicals that get out of whack when we are in shock. Five minutes a day can make a big difference.
  3. Practice Yoga or some other form of mindful exercise that includes breath work. Again, just a few minutes a day has profoundly healing effects.
  4. Take a walk in nature. If you're a city person, find a park or a place with trees if you can. 
  5. Drink water. This is legit! Drink water slowly. Focus on it. The water is good for you, but the experience of mindfully drinking it helps move you out of shock.
  6. Heat or ice packs. I scoffed at this. I'll admit it. We were watching videos of some intense, highly emotional hypnotherapy work, and an assistant came to me and offered an ice bag. I declined and said I was fine. Truth is, I was sitting there with tears pouring down my face, my body clenched tight. Not so fine. Next time the ice bag offer came around I accepted. It helps. Especially when I'm drifting off into parasympathetic shock and my body is trying to just shut down.
  7. Essential oils. This works like the ice and heat. Find something grounding and comforting, or something that wakes up your brain. I'm fond of peppermint.
  8. Be fully in the now. Breathe, slow and deep. Focus on being aware of your body. Feet on the floor. Hands on a desk.  
  9. Take a good long social media break. I'm amazed at how much I was being impacted by my Facebook and Twitter feeds. It's important to be informed and connected. But having all of that emotion coming at you all day long can be pretty overwhelming. 
  10. Consider finding a mind-body therapist. This could be hypnotherapy, massage, acupuncture, Reiki, or a number of other modalities.
Natural Food Mood Boosters That Actually Taste Fantastic

As it turns out, not all foods that are good for you taste bad! 

Last week I ran across this fantastic list of ingredients to boost and brighten your mood. You know what's on there?

Chocolate.

Maybe you already knew about the chocolate. But also cinnamon. Cardamom. Vanilla. 

Just writing these words makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Acting on this information, I added cinnamon and cayenne to my morning smoothie. It zinged. It woke up my mouth. It tasted maybe a little too good to be healthy. And I'm all about it when the healthy things are pleasurable, because I also believe in Vitamin P.

When I say Vitamin P, I'm not talking about the actual factual Vitamin P. I didn't know there was such a thing until Google pointed it out to me right this minute. In mental health, sometimes we talk about PLEASURE as Vitamin P. A lot of us are so caught up in the daily grind that we don't treat ourselves nearly often enough. Pleasure is healthy, so long as we find it in ways that are not destructive.

When Pleasure and Things That Are Good For Me line up, I'm a happy camper.

As for the turmeric sun tea referenced in the article above, I'm a little more skeptical. Oh, I have no doubt at all it would be healthy. I'm just not so sure it's a thing I want to put in my mouth. But hey, maybe I'll try it.

After I get home from this fabulous six day Heart Centered Hypnotherapy training I'm at this week.

In the meantime, be well. And hey - if you happen to try the turmeric sun tea, please be my guinea pig and let me know what you think.

Sleeping Better

Sleep heals us, body, mind and soul. Unfortunately, insomnia is a wide spread problem. All sorts of things can interrupt sleep:

Pain, kids, cats, worry, stress, noise, electronics, light.

Cats. I mentioned the cats, right? Jumping on your head. Attacking your feet. Running insanely through the house at 3 am howling and knocking glassware off the counter...

Personally, my sleep has been fragmented ever since my first child was born, twenty-five years ago. Somehow, I've never been able to regain the ability to sleep through the entire night, even though the kids have all moved out of the house. Of course, there are the cats. And now there are also hot flashes. I should mention that once you've flung all of the covers off so you can bask in the tropical paradise of a 3 a.m. hot flash, your bare feet are now fair game for the claws of a playful cat.

Of course, there are sleeping pills available, all of which have side effects and drawbacks. Most of them interfere with the normal sleep cycle, what is called the Architecture of Sleep. A lot of them leave you feeling hung over in the morning. Some carry the potential for addiction or at least dependence.

Seeing as I'm all about natural health whenever possible, I've tried most of the standard sleep advice (with the exception of giving up caffeine. They will pry the last beautiful mug of coffee out of my cold dead hands). These are all things that have helped:

  1. Yoga
  2. Relaxation breathing
  3. Keeping a regular sleep schedule for bedtime and waking
  4. Dark room
  5. Cool room
  6. White noise
  7. Valerian root (warning: this stuff stinks. We call them the Cow Pie PIlls at our house)
  8. Melatonin
  9. Cutting out electronics for at least thirty minutes before bed
  10. Keeping a worry list
  11. Meditation

The latest experiment is working with a CD using what's called "the Aurelis Method" by J.L. Mommaerts. This is from the Aurelis Project website:

"The purpose of the AURELIS project is to use autosuggestion as a means to communicate with the subconscious and to direct its tremendous power in order to gain better health and well being."

In practical terms, this method seems to be part auto-suggestion, part guided imagery, and part hypnotherapy.

I've had the Mommaerts CD sitting around for years and never bothered to try it. I'm not sure why. This last week I pulled it out and loaded it into my iTunes. I've loved working with it, and even though I'm still not sleeping for more than 4 hours at a stretch, I'm sleeping more deeply and have more energy.

Mommaerts has a lovely voice, a delightful accent, and the endearing trait of sometimes using English words that are not precisely right. For me, this adds charm to a system that does seem to work to invoke better sleep. 

I tried to find a place where you could buy this CD or the MP3, and all I can find at this point is a subscription to the Aurelis site. But, there are a lot of other guided imagery sleep CDs here, at Health Journeys. I plan to try a few of these in the very near future.

Next week I'm off to a week long training in heart-centered hypnotherapy, a practice that I hope will bring better sleep to me, as well as allowing me to bring better sleep to others. I'll be sure to share my adventures here, as well.

For now, I wish for you sweet dreams and a good night's sleep. Please feel free to share your sleep experiences in the comments.